Interesting thread, though I'm not sure it was Reality TV that did all the breaking. I think the 1980s-90s removal of all social safety catches on capitalism pushed us to 'everyone competes'

<<Been pushing around some concepts about current culture today in my head, centered around reality television breaking our society. Notions of nuance, de-escalation, humility, and common service have been completely turned around by reality “TV” in favor of engineered conflict. >>

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And I'm still not over my angry that it was the so-called *left*, as much as the right, that completely bought into the 'competition and individualism are good for the soul, y'all, cooperation just makes you weak and soft' mantra.

I know anger isn't helpful and so I want to be over it. But I'm not, yet.

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But the OP's thesis that Reality TV is fundamentally bad for us, that it artificially creates conflict and makes conflict fun... that I agree with. It's why I avoid the genre wherever possible. I just hate seeing people fight each other when they could work together.

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I am still completely gobsmacked each time I think about Ayn Rand and realise, again, that there was a dedicated, organised movement in American culture since the 1950s to literally *call empathy and altruism evil*. To make people less loving. And that very high ranking politicians, businesspeople.... and religious leaders, who know and teach better... bought into it.

That stuns me. Still does. Every time.

How. How did that happen? How did we let these people, this ideology, run our society?

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@natecull It's a counterreaction to politicians coopting altruism for their own gain.

@notclacke That seems a little like 'politicians are coopting people's desire for clean water and air, so let's aggressively promote pollution'.

@natecull Not really. It's about whether you trust your government to handle power.

If you trust your government and the mechanisms that create it, you are likely to believe in social democracy. If you don't, your likely to believe in either minarchy, ancom or ancap.

Because accommodating slavery and its cousins while espousing the assorted virtues made double think requisite for the elites throughout all of US history, therefore rendering them especially sympathetic to that program?

@chi505 I am sure that slavery has cast a VERY long shadow over all US and even all European (and African and South American and Eastern European) politics.

It's just been so deeply entwined into everything that it's very hard to remove. Have to take it strand by strand, as it surfaces into conscious thought, almost.

I have told various non-US folks that the answer to the question "why is the US weird in X way compared to other OECD states?" the answer is "slavery" for all values of X

@natecull what’s even crazier is that when you point out that a society where people give a fuck about each other is provingly superior in the outcome for everybody (less crime, higher life expectancy, fewer work hours, etc.) otherwise completely rational people turn their brains off and start citing bullshit litanies

@natecull The worst part of Ayn Rand supporters is that they call themselves objectivists. Self-applying that label is the apex of vanity.

@natecull Mind too: Ayn Rand was actively promoted propaganda. FEE, CATO, and all that.

@dredmorbius @natecull *note to self: spend a little time some time learning about the CATO Institute and Rand Corp., and possibly how they're related*

@FerdiZ @natecull CATO and the RAND Corporation: pretty much not at all.

One is a bullshit spewing stupidity generator, the other does military, social, and technological research. (RAND invented packet-switched networking.)

CATO and Ayn Rand: Libetarian-fascist bullshit ideology fuckwits.

@dredmorbius @FerdiZ

While I used to be very baffled by leftist types who associated libertarianism with fascism, the older I get (and so the more relevant history becomes to me), the more I realise that the Rand / Reagan / Thatcher / libertarian / Austrian Economics nexus share a lot of the 'aesthetics' of classical 30s fascism.

Specifically, the feeling that 'life is unending brutal struggle' and that we need to stay 'hard' and 'manly' or Civilisation Collapses. A fear of social 'softness'.

@dredmorbius @FerdiZ

And the Reality TV epidemic of the 2000s, and the iconography of the 'zombie' as the major screen monster of the 2000s, as well as the rehabilitation of active torture in 'realistic' action stories, all play into this ideology in some very unsettling ways.

@dredmorbius @FerdiZ

I agree. And it didn't happen by chance. A Republican government, complaint Democrats, a major war... and 'somehow, magically' a flood of games and TV and movies pushing pro-war, xenophobic, anti-immigrant/refugee sentiment. It just happened! Yeah, media 'magically' aligning with government whims isn't actually magic.

I think it's why I started losing interest in videogames around 2003? Cos that was the last batch before the big Bush propaganda swing pushed Grunty Guys.

@natecull @dredmorbius @FerdiZ

There's so many games which are deeply subversive to the prevailing statist authoritarian narrative, for instance the Fallout games, the Bioshock games, Half-Life 2...

"The city is a creepy homage to everything evil in the idea of American Exceptionalism, from the murderous Motorized Patriot, an animatronic-like machine-gun wielding George Washington robot, to the public stoning of an interracial couple with baseballs.

@natecull @FerdiZ So, totally weird self-discovery. When I was first tracking down orrigins of economic theology / free-market bullshit, and misrepresentations of Adam Smith, I ran across a title, "The Invisible Hand'' (1965), from a publisher I'd never heard of, Regnery.

Turns out the current generation has been a huge ssupporter of the neofascist movement and Milo Y., etc.

Mark Ames has some excellent exposes on libertarianism, rascism, fascism, nazism, etc.

@dredmorbius Exactly.

It was all 'we gotta do everything to Beat Communism tm, even if that means making our kids hate the idea of fairness and sharing and teamwork, and our churches preach the opposite of what Jesus taught'.

@natecull The wole Red Scare bit, dating back to 1917, is simply bizarro world. I'm still digging into it. Tremendous repercussions, most especially on economic and social theory.

Ideaas (and people) in the least associated with Communist or Socialist sympathies entirely shut out.

That's only started to fade in the past decade or three.


"One reason most countries don’t find the time to embrace Ayn Rand’s thinking is that she is a textbook sociopath. In her notebooks Ayn Rand worshiped a notorious serial murderer-dismemberer, and used this killer as an early model for the type of “ideal man” she promoted in her more famous books. These ideas were later picked up on and put into play by major right-wing figures of the past half decade."

@natecull It's not "altruism" that's evil, but forcing it at gunpoint. All of American politics since the 1930s has been reaction against first the slave-state of the Nazis, which we came too close to following, and then the Soviets, who literally ran the left, and now their heirs do again. Rand escaped from those fuckers and immunized us against some of their surface ideology, which helped keep us from making gulags and the commissars appropriating all wealth like the Soviets.

@natecull I always point people at 2 books: The Gulag Archipelago, and The Great Terror: A Reassessment. That could've happened here, too.

As far as I'm concerned, both parties are evil and would create tyranny. Happily they waste all energy fighting each other for control first, and it's essential to let neither win.

@mdhughes I share your fear about the experience of Communism. It was not a step forward.

But Soviet Communism and gangster capitalism are not the two only options for organising a society.

I also don't consider mainstream political parties to be evil.

I do, however, think that something particularly unusually bad is occurring in today's right-wing parties, while today's 'left' parties are mostly holding to what used to be the old center.

@mdhughes @natecull Your species lives in a bizarre hell-world. Why not appoint an immortal sun goddess to keep peace?

(No, we’re not offering an invasion: Equestria keeps our hooves busy enough as it is)

@Celestia @natecull They tried the immortal sun-goddess Amaterasu in Japan, and had 2000 years of continuous civil war.

Blood for the pony god!

@natecull there are certain people who literally cannot understand why anyone would feel empathy or show kindness towards their fellow man. To them, anyone that claims to be able to, must be lying for the optics, because that's what the only situation they can imagine themselves being nice to others. It's amazing how they pretty much out themselves by accusing people of virtue signaling or being fake. It's pure projection.

@Yokai And what worries me is that this particular message and philosophy resonated so strongly with the people who went to elite business schools in the 1950s to 1980s, and beyond.

@jankoekepan @natecull sorry, wasn't trying to paint them as psychopaths or sociopaths. I was one of these people and yeah, it was definitely cynicism that made me think nobody could actually care.

@Yokai @jankoekepan @natecull

(Aside) Social Democracy =/= Democratic Socialism

Large parts of Europe have made a relative success of Social Democracy as a fundamentally capitalist system but with state organised social programmes. Meanwhile, some of the old Socialist countries are attempting to bolt democracy onto State run, planned economies. These two things are very different. But US commentators tend to be bad at confusing them, often for ideological reasons.

And then there's China.

@natecull Ayn Rand was just a cult leader and I think her influence is often overestimated. Ayn Rand herself was a creation of the anti-communism of the early 20th century.

@bob She certainly was just a cult leader, but a remarkably influential one (because of that existing anti-communist scene); not all cults include in their inner circle a future Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

It's that mix of very odd, extreme views ("altruism is literally evil") combined with followers who were eager to hear and in a position to teach and implement these ideas at the highest levels of government that make her more than just a crank with a couple of awful sci-fi books.

@bob But you're right; it's not Ayn herself but the elite interest in her ideas that's the weird part.

@bob @natecull Sadly, there's still a bunch of U.S. Congressmen whose only significant achievement seems to be voting as Ayn Rand would.

Yeah, I'm pretty sensitive about yelling so even though I love horror movies I find reality TV genuinely upsetting.

@natecull The first half is true, the second half isn't.

Competition is a good way to measure, improve and drive yourself and society. It's the tearing down of others that is toxic. But doing the one without doing the other requires strength of character.

I agree that "reality" TV creates artificial conflict and rewards toxicity and in doing so probably hurts society at large.

Coopetition ftw.
@natecull I also agree that "reality" TV wasn't the only thing, probably mostly a symptom, but it contributes to a feedback loop.

@notclacke We will have to choose to disagree on competition being a good way to measure and improve society.

In my experience, competition measures and rewards exactly ONE thing: the ability to win a competition.

@natecull @notclacke how do you deal with people who don't cooperate well together though? constructive competition could fit there

cooperation and competition aren't necessarily two mutually exclusive extremes, you can have both

@calvin @notclacke

Yeah, there's probably a need to balance two mechanisms against each other.

Just not make competition the *primary* dynamic of the system and individualism the primary virtue that we teach.

And we desperately need 'winner-takes-all' to not be a thing - that creates massive, runaway feedback loops of centralisation, with biological analogies that are not pretty.


@natecull as any European will tell you, the US Democrats are not a leftist party. They're just "less right wing" than the GOP.

Somehow you've collectively allowed yourselves to fall into the narrative that social democracy is akin to communism, and now you're reaping the fruits of that.

@natecull "The Apprentice" was instrumental for the Trump's image and success, a good thread

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